We are a teen-led organization supporting our community’s most fragile babies hospitalized in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). We support NICU families during their baby’s hospitalization by giving them books and educating them on how and why NICU reading promotes infant brain development, supports family bonding, and decreases infant and parental stress related to intensive care hospitalization.
WHY READ IN THE NICU?
Reading in the NICU has been demonstrated to be incredibly beneficial for speech and language development, school readiness, and success later on in life. NICU babies are at increased risk of poor developmental outcomes such as speech delays and lower IQs due to medical complications, decreased normal auditory experiences in the first months of life, separation of babies and families, and family socioeconomic stressors both prior and due to the expensive NICU hospitalization required for specialized care.
OUR NICU READING PROGRAM
NICU BOOK ROUNDS
Based upon medical research on the benefits of reading with infants in the NICU, our first of its kind teen-led NICU book rounds program builds bonds between parents and babies during a time of crisis and creates normalcy in the ICU. BWB teens meet 1-on-1 with families to discuss the joys and benefits of reading beginning in the NICU. By ensuring all families leave the NICU with a book and knowledge of the importance of early literacy, BWB helps a generation of children to read and succeed. We have already provided more than 1,000 families their choice of multiple new books from our selection of books in 7 languages at Randall Children's Hospital, our first hospital site.
ADMIT READING PACKETS
Through our NICU Admit Reading Packets, each NICU family is introduced to our reading program with a book and information about how and why to read with their baby in the NICU.
Serving as the model upon which we developed our multi-site NICU read-a-thon, our read-a-thon at Randall Children's Hospital was one of the first nationwide promoting NICU reading with a friendly competition in which NICU families compete to read the most with their baby. “Winners” received a gift basket of books and other literacy promoting items. 45% of families participated in our first NICU read-a-thon in March 2020. The reception from families and healthcare providers at Randall spurred us to expand our program by holding an annual September read-a-thon competition between hospitals. Learn more about the multi-site read-a-thon below.
SIBLING BOOK LIBRARY
We have established a library for patient siblings in the NICU lobby at Randall Children's Hospital. This library is stocked with hundreds of children’s books for all ages of children. We are so grateful for the donations of 900 books from the Children’s Book Bank and Titlewave Used Bookstore of Multnomah County Library.
RANDALL READS -
THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL THAT READS
BWB's focus on supporting children and families through the power of books and reading together has inspired a hospital-wide focus on supporting early literacy and family bonding throughout Randall Children's Hospital (RCH). BWB is working with RCH to develop an integrated literacy focus throughout the children's hospital recognizing education as central to health so that every child leaves the hospital with at least one book. Together, we are establishing RCH as "Randall Reads - The Children's Hospital That Reads!"
Babies With Books Map
This map shows NICUs that participated in the September 2020 read-a-thon in blue and NICUs receiving our process guide on implementing or expanding a reading program in their NICU in red. Randall Children's Hospital and Providence St Vincent Medical Center in Portland, OR, have teen-led NICU reading programs. Scroll to see non-US NICUs: Canada, South Africa, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Qatar, and the United Kingdom.
BABIES WITH BOOKS DURING COVID-19
Our team continues to provide all NICU families books and education on reading with their infant through our Admit Reading Packets and will resume in-person books rounds when possible.
We have completed and are sharing our reading program process guide for other NICUs to adopt or adapt for use in hospitals across the globe.
Reading to my NICU baby never crossed my mind before BWB came to our room.
My husband doesn't always know how to connect with our son since he's so little. Reading to him gives my husband the opportunity to bond in an easy way.
To see someone so young step up and advocate for a program like this just makes me so happy, as an educator and a mother. Keep up the amazing work - it is more appreciated than you’ll ever know!
HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL TESTIMONIALS
Bringing a book into the complex NICU environment and helping the family feel comfortable singing, talking, reading to their baby is one of the most important things we can do.
BWB is remarkable not only because it is the single teen-led program in the country and one of only several dozen programs reported, but because of its scope, measured impact, and incorporation of and contribution to best practices for literacy promotion in healthcare.
RCH NICU Medical Director
BRING BWB TO YOUR NICU!
We are sharing an in-depth procedural guide of our NICU reading program to hospitals across the United States and world. If you would like to build on this work and adapt or adopt the program in your hospital, fill out the form below (click the button) to receive our process guide. We are sharing our program resources for free to make NICU reading promotion accessible everywhere.
Why use our program as a model?
Research-based educational materials for both families and healthcare providers on the importance of NICU reading
Our guide details multiple program structures, building on our learnings of utilizing teen volunteers to decrease burden on healthcare systems and providers (our guide also describes programs adaptations without volunteers)
We share our learnings from 3.5 years of program development and expansion
ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL READ-A-THON
In September 2020, we hosted the first US-based international NICU read-a-thon. Building on our March 2020 read-a-thon, this read-a-thon promoted NICU reading through a friendly competition between families within hospitals and between hospitals across the globe. Based the reception from the 39 participating NICUs, our read-a-thon is an annual event and we will hold the next read-a-thon in September 2021. Learn more about the read-a-thon below.
Building on our poster at the Vermont Oxford Network Annual Quality Congress in Chicago, we wrote up our work in a peer-reviewed article in Neonatology Today to share our work and promote NICU reading on a larger scale. Learn more about where we've shared our work through conferences such as the Vermont Oxford Network (VON) Neonatology Quality Conference below.